We're living in strange times at the moment — we're not fully free to go about our daily lives, but the harsher lockdown measures of the last few months have been eased a little. That means we're allowed to see loved ones outside, go to pub gardens (in groups of 6) and book isolated staycations.
However, all this newfound activity — combined with the fact that many of us are feeling anxious about a return to our 'normal' busy social lives — means that we're very likely headed for a post-lockdown burnout if we're not careful, according to Lyndall Farley, a wellbeing coach and sabbatical specialist.
'We're creatures of habit, without routine, stress increases and we’re at a heightened risk of burnout,' she explains. 'We’ve all been through a huge amount of change recently, and as human beings, we’re not built to be under stress for long periods of time or to deal constant change.'
She adds that, over the past year, many of us will have adjusted to our new slower pace of life, and returning to the busyness of our former lives can be daunting and exhausting. The only way to ensure a smooth transition, she says, is to acknowledge the unique stresses of lockdown life and the effect they've had on our energy levels.
Luckily, Farley's speciality is to help people navigate the logistical and emotional process of taking a break and then smoothly returning to work, recharged and ready to thrive — and so is in a great position to offer up her expert-approved tips to help avoid post-lockdown social burnout.
How to avoid social burnout after lockdown
'If you’re feeling nervous about returning to social situations, ask yourself what’s driving the anxiety. Are you worried about your health on public transport, social interactions, returning to a busy social life? Getting to the bottom of the real drivers of anxiety will help you design the right coping mechanism.
'You may want to make different choices about how and when you catch up with friends or when you take public transport. Think about what you really need and design a solution you feel comfortable with.
'A real temptation can be to go straight back to our pre-pandemic social lives. Going from lockdown straight back to a busy social life puts you at risk of social burnout. This happens when your social interactions drain your energy more than they give you energy.
'This lockdown has given us a chance to reevaluate how we interact with people and become more mindful of the social activities we choose. Be courageous and challenge your old ways. As much as possible, discard social interactions that aren’t serving you and build more of the energising social activities into your life.'
But, it's not just our renewed social lives that have us feeling frazzled, many people will be slowly returning to the office after months of working from home, or being furloughed, which can be a hard adjustment. So how do we make sure to keep a balance and not burn out the moment we start working full-time again?
How to return to work after furlough
'While it may seem like being on furlough is like being on holiday, this couldn’t be further from the truth. People on furlough have had the stress of whether they’ll even have a job to return to. This – coupled with childcare, social isolation and a lack structure – can impact health and wellbeing.
'As you’re returning to work, make a plan for the first few weeks back. Find out what’s changed with the business or your role, talk with your boss about their priorities and make time to look after your own wellbeing. In your plan, include the things that are likely to cause you stress and how you’ll proactively manage those.'
How to return to the office after working from home
'People who’ve been working from home have had their own unique cocktail of stressors. Screen fatigue, learning new ways of working, constant changes at work and home and social isolation all take their toll.
'Parents who’ve had childcare and home-schooling responsibilities whilst remote working are particularly at risk of burnout now. The constant juggling of competing priorities while not having access to recharge and relax routines has made lockdown a particularly brutal experience for many parents.
'It’s important to give yourself time to recover from the stressful period. Consider building some extra ‘me-time’ into your day or getting back into your exercise routine to help with your recovery. Acknowledge your stress levels and come up with a plan for how and when you’ll return to the office.
Farley thinks learning from our lockdown experience —whatever that may be individually for you—is a 'unique chance' to reflect on how you coped in isolation, what you learned and to revaluate how you want to live post-lockdown.
How to learn from lockdown and avoid burn out
Design your life
What do you want to keep from your lockdown life and what do you want to go back to? Avoid the temptation to go straight back to the ‘old way’. Design a new hybrid life taking the best of the old and new ways of working.
Make your wellbeing a priority
Keep a close eye on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and give yourself time to recharge from work stress. Apply the Recharge Model to get the most recharge value out of your non-work time.
Build a support network of friends and family to keep you focused on your wellbeing or consider getting a coach to support you through the transition.
Lyndall Farley left her decade-long corporate career to train as a Co-Active Coach and founded Beyond a Break – a company that helps people and organisations optimise time off to boost wellbeing. For more tips and advice on what to expect as you return to work, download your free complete Return to Work Guide from Beyond a Break or have a look at the Coaching Support Packages to help you smoothly transition back to work.
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